Hi, happy spring! 🙂 I asked a couple of weeks ago two questions on my Instagram, “What are you actively trying to grow in? & What is something you’re struggling with?”
The question boxes filled up full of different answers. But so many of them had a theme. For areas that people are trying to grow in the box was filled full of responses like “contentment, joy, peace, trust, routines, identity, time management, prayer, spiritual discipline.”
And for areas that people are struggling, “waiting, patience, identity, guilt, anxiety, depression, lots of intrusive thoughts, low self-esteem, comparison.”
In some way, those questions are one and the same. It’s just one is asked in a more positive way than the other. The first question addresses the subject with room for growth. The second question asks where are you currently?
I can say that every single subject listed above is something I have fought for or fought against. I think you probably could say the same.
When our thoughts are intrusive, how do we hush them? I wanted to write about this subject because our thoughts are powerful. I know this very well. My thoughts have threatened my safety. My thoughts have lifted Jesus up. And my thoughts have torn others down. My thoughts have narrated what type of ice cream I should get. And my thoughts have picked up healthy and unhealthy patterns. But when a thought seems to be stuck on the same train tracks and come choo-chooing through without any brakes, how do we re-make the tracks?
As someone who has fought mental illness, I have had my fair share of intrusive thoughts. I would read the scripture about renewing our minds and get frustrated. If my desperate prayers weren’t being heard soon enough, what do I do when my mind decides to bombard my heart with such horrible & scary thoughts?
First of all, let me say this. I am so sorry if you are experiencing a vicious cycle of thoughts that feel overwhelming. I am so thankful to know that we are not alone. And even more encouraging to know that our God is bigger than these patterns.
So let’s take a deep breath and recognize the power of our minds. My mind scared me for several years. Sometimes it can still bother me. Counseling helped me a lot and there’s so many tools that are so helpful that they can give you. When a physical therapist gives you exercises to do at home, the psychology therapist gives the same but for your thoughts. One particular visit I had was life-changing. If I had known I was walking into a visit that would be so helpful, I would’ve walked in not anxious or upset at all.
“Have you ever heard of Stop Thought?” my therapist asked. “I think so? It just means stopping your thought right?”
“Well, yes! But you visualize a stop sign and then replace that thought after with some truth.” Now I don’t know if my therapist was a believer but this simple application of Romans 12:2 helped me so much in learning how to renew my mind in Christ. I made the background of my phone a stop sign for a bit as I retrained my mind in this way.
When I had intrusive thoughts pop into my mind or enter quietly through the back door, I learned how to stop them as soon as I found them, and redirect them out. Sometimes I found the thoughts immediately running back into my mind as soon as I dismissed them. And calmly I picked them back up and took them back out. Sometimes I rushed and threw them out because it felt serious enough to toss them so far that they couldn’t come back.
Another life-changing revelation for me was when I read John 10 about the good shepherd and the sheep. When Jesus spoke about his sheep knowing his voice, it gave me peace. But it also gave me so much peace when He said, He knows His sheep. I encourage you to read this chapter and think about your thoughts as you read it. When it speaks about the stranger’s voice, thief and robber, it says that the sheep do not respond to their voice. And I recognized that Jesus never said, the sheep don’t ever hear another voice. It says they don’t respond to that voice. I have found as I fight intrusive thoughts, sinful thoughts, or anxious thoughts, that if I say under my breath or if time and place allows, out loud, “I hear the thief and robber, but I don’t have to respond to it.” It’s freeing, it’s holy, and its gracious that my Shepherd has helped me recognize that.
And I would encourage you to read Romans 12 because it also helps so much when it comes to the struggle to understand our identity. Sometimes we battle thoughts of unworthiness or questioning who we are. I have battled my identity before because I also was battling the identity or reality of God. These sound like such serious and scary thoughts but now that I’ve sought and I’ve experienced those, I feel more confident in my identity because I have found God. We have gifts given by God and we have Him above all to recognize if our God is good, that is our identity. When I read the chapter of Romans 12 it seems simple and uplifting. Recognize also that the word of God is not condemning but convicting, full of truth and love. When I don’t understand my identity, I always go back and learn more about God. My creator.
Praying for you as you read this. Maybe you’re not the one who is experiencing intrusive thoughts but it’s a loved one. I am praying for you as well. A prayer that I now pray over my loved ones who go through this is that they will be able to say “I know the Shepherd and He knows me. I hear the thief and robber and will not respond.”
Thanks for reading,